Modest Mouse, the indie rock band hailing from Issaquah, Washington, just released its seventh studio album “The Golden Casket”— its first album since 2015. The band launched itself into indie rock stardom, with the quick release of three albums over just five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After its 2004 album “Good News for People Who Love Bad News”— containing the iconic song “Float On”— Modest Mouse began to slow its roll. The 2015 album “Strangers to Ourselves” took a whole eight years to complete, and “The Golden Casket” took six.
The wait for “The Golden Casket,” however, was worth it. The album has no consistent sound or style, bringing variety from the more psychedelic opener “Fuck Your Acid Trip” to more classic indie in “Japanese Trees” to upbeat, complex layers of unique sounds in “The Sun Hasn’t Left.” This album has an interesting style and diversity that strays from the band’s past discography. Although it doesn’t have any earworms like “Float On” and “Dashboard,” and it may take some fans a minute to adjust to the new style, the album certainly still satisfies by the end.
A perfect example of the newer sounds on this album is “The Sun Hasn’t Left.” With a strong drum machine beat, the song is made on layers of synthesizer and has a clear absence of guitar. Isaac Brock, frontman and principal songwriter for the band, pledged not to play guitars on this album. Although that is a broken promise, as some songs do have guitar on them. “The Sun Hasn’t Left” utilizes an almost xylophone sounding instrument, for melody on top of heavy synth layers, to create a heavy yet bouncy and fun song.
“Leave A Light On” also amplifies the use of unique sounds and layers that show the time that was put into this album. In the song, Brock takes advantage of water sounds and techno video game synth with a soft drum machine in the background to add an authentic and unique sound. The song also features a fun swoop sound and a siren sounding synth among others. It cleverly incorporates all of these sounds into a catchy song with a strong chorus melody.
The album also has more classic indie songs with “We are Between” and “Japanese Trees.” Brock uses them as bookends, with the more experimental songs in the middle. “Japanese Trees” still utilized the more experimental sounds, with sections featuring almost completely bouncy electronic sounds with relaxing synths and spacy guitar effects.
These sections starkly contrast the heavy, aggressive distorted guitar and attacking vocals that begin the song and come back throughout, bringing the beloved indie sound that made Modest Mouse so famous. Although it may seem odd to combine this aggressive sound with a happy synth, the contrast is blended together fantastically and shows the care put into the album. This dedication is further demonstrated in the strong lyrics, with lines such as “Full of pointless details just to crease up your sleeve / You’re twisted and you’re bent like you’re a Japanese tree.” The song is essentially about wanting to hook up or go on a date with someone, and Brock uses the Japanese tree metaphor to describe the person. This combination of solid lyrics with complex and contrasting instrumentals is the best on the album.
“We are Between” is arguably the strongest song on the album and has the most plays on Spotify, at over 3.4 million streams as of mid-July. The song brings the classic indie rock sound with layers of electric guitar and a distinct, catchy melody. There is some synthesizer echoing in the background, but the song sticks with Modest Mouse’s indie rock roots, satisfying fans of older albums.
In the lyrics of each verse, Brock alternates the second line with “This is the worst part” and “This is the best part.” In the chorus, he argues that “We are somewhere between dust and stars.” Ultimately, the song argues that our identities — arguably as a whole or individuals — are between the best and worst parts of ourselves. If any song will be remembered from this album, it’s “We Are Between.”
Overall, “The Golden Casket” impressively blends new and interesting sounds with some classic indie themes. I was hesitant about the newer sounds at first, but the songs have grown on me after a couple of listens. I highly recommend listening to the album, then listening to it again to catch the details potentially missed from a first listen. While the album took many years to complete, the complexity and unique sounds prove the band has not been slacking off. Modest Mouse is still cranking out fantastic songs that are definitely worth a listen.